Cameron Ward should be in for as huge year at Washington State, and Wisconsin's secondary is still a work in progress. Even though they beat Illinois State 38-0 last week, the Redbirds had some success through the air against the Badgers. They went down the field against Wisconsin, but the Badger defense came up with a massive 100-yard pick six, which ended up being all they needed to win the game. However, this isn't Illinois State.
As I mentioned previously, Ward brings a whole different challenge for Wisconsin. He transferred over from Incarnate Word, and while he didn't have an amazing game in a 24-17 win over Idaho last week, his running game picked him up. Former Badger Nakia Watson’s 117 yards was more than enough to crush Idaho, and the passing game did its job to grab the W.
The defense of the Cougars was dominant against the Vandals, basically living in their backfield with an incredible seven sacks. They should apply some pressure against Wisconsin as well, but the Badgers offer a different challenge, and Ward will be key to them competing in this game.
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To me, a 38-0 win over Illinois State is actually pretty disappointing. The rushing attack should have been much better, and the stats are a little skewed thanks to one 96-yard run in the game. It really wasn't that great of a performance against a team they should have absolutely killed. There was a bit of good news, however: QB Graham Mertz was terrific. He actually looked the part of a power five QB, throwing the ball with confidence and poise. He looked like he’s ready to finally break through, but you have to take into account this was Illinois State here.
It was a tune-up game to get them ready for the rest of the season, and they needed it. While I mentioned all the good things Washington State did, they still only beat Idaho by a touchdown, and the Vandals were able to make a few plays through the air. The Badgers defense should be able to really put some pressure on Ward and put him in some uncomfortable situations for most of the game. The secondary can be had, but they will have to deal with a ferocious Wisconsin front seven.
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Wisconsin and its great defense always seem to have issues with the sharper passing teams that test the secondary midrange to deep. Ward will get his shots in for sure in this one, and Wisconsin has to careful here. There is always the chance at an upset, but I just think the Badgers will be a bit too much for the Cougars. Wisconsin should control the clock, and they will pound the rock with force.
I'll take Wisconsin here -17.5 to get the job done.
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